Four juvenile shore plovers (tuturuatu) were released on to Motutapu island in early February.
The birds, which are critically endangered and number about 250 in the world, are endemic to New Zealand and among the world’s rarest shore birds.
Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in the northern Wairarapa, which released the birds, hopes to release 21 more by the end of March.
“This season has been very full on,” says Mireille Hicks, lead shore plover ranger at Pūkaha. “Together with the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust,
this would be our most successful year yet. Between us we have so far raised 46 shore plover chicks – and there are more on the way.
“We have seven breeding pairs in total, two of which are breeding in their first season, which is incredible. We also have a breeding pair that was very unexpected as the male had an injured wing and the female had an issue with her feathers.
“Due to these injuries they could not be released into the wild but by breeding in captivity, they are contributing to the survival of their species.”
Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf is the site of the world’s largest pest eradication programme and is home to the saddleback (tīeke).
“The shore plover is a very special bird because it’s naturally very curious, but it nests on the ground and is very small – it almost ‘shakes hands’ with predators,” Mireille says.
“They are also very nervous birds and can be easily frightened away from their nests. Many people do not know about how critical the situation is which is something we’d like to change. Each bird is precious.”
Last year, Pūkaha released six juveniles hatched from five pairs on to Waikawa Island. The Shore Plover Recovery Programme began at Pūkaha in the early 1980s.